This Moment, We Own It: Fast & Furious 6 (2013)
When Fast Five opened in spring 2011, it became solid proof that the Fast & Furious franchise still had quite a distance to go. Not only did it become the first installment to receive a positive rating from Rotten Tomatoes, it was a huge moneymaker in North America ($209M) and worldwide ($626M). Director Justin Lin revitalized the series by moving it from being about underground street racing and crime, to dealing with major heists and having its central characters face off against the U.S. Diplomatic Security Service. With big shoes to fill for a sixth installment, Fast & Furious 6 continues this path of metamorphosis, taking the sense of espionge one would expect from a spy thriller and mixing it up with the high octane energy we've come to love.
The destruction of a mercenary convoy in Moscow leads agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), the primary antagonist of Fast Five, to call upon the services of Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker), and their crew. While remaining quite luxuriously as retired fugitives, the gang accepts in return for having their records cleared, but for Dom it's personal as it's revealed his thought-to-be-dead lover Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is working for the target.
From here on out, much of the film is set in London, the base of operations for villain Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), a former British SAS major who plans to create a device of catastrophic power and sell it on the black market. The crew attempt to nab Shaw and his operatives, who as Roman (Tyrese) points out, look like evil alternate-universe versions of their crew. By helping out the law in exchange for amnesty, the series moves begins to reposition Dom, Brian, Roman, Tej (Ludacris), Han (Sung Kang), and Gisele (Gal Gadot) as forces of good against their criminal backgrounds, an important factor as it's introduced early on that Brian has just become a father with Mia (Jordana Brewster), as well as most of the team wanting to settle down comfortably for their own reasons. While it's repeatedly indicated they're doing as 'one last job' to put their pasts behind them, it nevertheless ends up being the first of many new jobs under the rebranded sensibility of the series which follows.
Not many franchises are able to make it to a sixth film and still contain the same sense of excitement or vigour it started off with, but since the Fast & Furious series moved into a new direction, it has continued to up the ante while giving fans what they crave. Tons of sleek, flashy cars, dangerous stunts, twists and turns, and the fun camaraderie and chemistry between the core ensemble are present and accounted for, some of the best of the entire series to date. The action sequences are remarkable in themselves, especially towards the end with a freeway chase involving a tank and bodies leaping between cars, and a finale on a never-ending runway with four different faceoffs happening simultaneously.
Justin Lin's work on the series since Tokyo Drift is the reason why, after a period of inactivity, it returned in a big enough way to become one of the top 10 film franchises in history. Sadly, this was Lin's final entry in the series, having become a hot Hollywood commodity in the process and choosing to work on developing the mega blockbuster Star Trek Beyond over Furious 7, which went to The Conjuring director James Wan. Still, he gives it everything he's got, producing a film that is slightly leaner in destructive power than Fast Five, but manages to be refined at the same time. I would say this is my personal favorite of the series, improving on its predecessor and remaining accessible to those just entering the world of these films for the first time (it even features an opening credits montage summarizing the last five entries in the span of a few minutes). It makes logical sense to start with the first time if you're getting ready for The Fate of the Furious, but if you're looking for a sampling for what's in store, Fast & Furious 6 isn't a bad place to start. Just be sure to keep your brain off and enjoy the ride.